Starting an Allotment

When you first consider growing your own vegetables it may seem like a good idea on starting an allotment.

Normally provided by the local council, allotments are usually available at a very reasonable rent. But with the increased interest in growing your own food, allotments are gaining popularity once more and you may have to go on a waiting list to obtain one.

Bookshelf Boyfriend will help you all the way, but before you take the plunge there are a few things you should consider…

Time of Starting an Allotment

An allotment is a commitment. How much time can you realistically devote to it? During the growing season you will need to get to your plot once a day for picking, watering and weeding. Weeds can quickly take over if you’re not on top of them. It’s very depressing to spend a long weekend clearing your plot of brambles and weeds only to return a fortnight later and find them growing back with renewed vigour.

Cost of Starting an Allotment

Allotments are normally rented for a reasonable annual charge. But there are other investments you will need to make. A shed provides shelter from the rain, somewhere to brew up a cup of tea, as well as a secure place to lock up you tools. If you don’t have any tools you will need to invest in some. See our gardening tools guide for advice on basic equipment. You may also want to get a cold frame for raising seedlings and growing less hardy plants like peppers or aubergines, or even a small greenhouse to give you more scope.

Effort of Starting an Allotment

Are you reasonably fit? Gardening can be heavy work, though you will almost certainly benefit from a little strenuous exercise. But if you are someone who prefers to sit in front of the tele with burger and chips, you probably won’t find the energy for your allotment.  But if that’s a lifestyle you are trying to kick, and all the other boxes get a tick then this may be the answer.

If you still decide to go ahead you will find your allotment is a tranquil refuge from the frantic pace of daily life.  It can supply you with baskets of delicious home grown produce, at a fraction of the price you would pay in the supermarket, and you will benefit greatly from the fresh air and exercise.

Where to start?

A full sized allotment is 10 rods –approximately 100 ft. x 27 ft., or 250 m2 (this is just a rough guide: you should check the precise measurements with the local authority). You may be offered a smaller plot. If your local authority gives you a choice of plots to go for, take a bit of time to decide on which is best for you. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Is it near a water source?
  • Is the ground in a reasonable state? (Watch out for fly-tipped rubble, buried rubbish or excessive stones. Also watch out for buried carpet, sometimes used as a weed suppressant.) Ask the neighbours; they will know the history of the plot.
  • Is it heavily shaded by trees? Some shade will be welcome, but imagine the site in summer when the trees are in leaf.
  • Is there a shed on the site?

It can seem a daunting task when you first take on an allotment. You may be lucky enough to take over a previously well-tended plot, where all you need to do is fork over the ground. But the chances are that you have inherited a patch of bramble and couch grass, and you cannot imagine ever getting it to a state where it will produce your delicious fruit and vegetables. Don’t despair! It will almost certainly not be as bad as it looks.

Judy Maciejowska

Keen allotment holder for over 25 years. Currently creating an orchard of rare and traditional fruit varieties on a small-holding in Devon. An environmental political campaigner, election strategist and campaigner.

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